Courmayeur is a beautiful village, located on the Italian side of Mont Blanc in the Aosta Valley. Though one finds people from all over the world in Courmayeur, on the weekends the beautiful people come in from the nearby cities of Milano and Torino.
The beauty and charm of this place is what draws people here, to mix and mingle, because its skiing is not at the level of many other Italian ski resorts. Beginners will like it, but most people come here to see and be seen, and disco the night away.
The off-pist options may appeal to the more serious skier and there are nearby cross-country trails. The resort is located on the Italian side of the highest mountain in Western Europe. It has a charming center with cobblestone streets and beautiful old buildings. The town is very laidback except on weekends, when the jet set comes to town.
The locals are known as Valdostani and are very friendly people. Although 100% Italian, they can usually speak French and often English as well. The people are as down-to-earth as the ambience in the town.
There is plenty to do in Courmayeur other than skiing, so the non-skier will have a fabulous time as well. The shopping, spas, restaurants, and nightlife combine to provide all the ingredients for a wonderful vacation.
Ski Area Map and Description
Known as one of the most beautiful places to ski, Courmayeur is connected to its French neighbor, Chamonix, through a system of cable cars. The fourteen peaks that surround the town provides beautiful vistas while one skis the 25 trails over 60 miles of slopes.
There is skiing for any level, though intermediates may be most happy here. There are two main skis area, Checrouit-Val Veny, which is mostly for beginners and intermediates and Mont Blanc, which is geared toward the expert skier. The off-pist skiing is great, as a guide can lead experts and intermediates over challenging terrain. The best or most famous of the runs is the 13 mile Vallée Blanche, which goes from Helbronner point down to Chamonix.
One can buy a lift pass in Courmayeur, which also includes Chamonix, La Thuile and Megève. Waiting is long lift lines can be an issue and the fact that one cannot ski back to town may be problems for some.
Lifts and Tickets
Courmayeur boasts eleven draglifts, seven chairs, and nine cable cars and in general is efficient. As stated before, one cannot ski back to town, and must instead take the cable car back.
The full-day pass is about $39, and the six-day pass is about $210: the weekly one gives access to one day in Chamonix and one in another ski resort in Valle d’Aosta. There are discounts available to children, senior citizens, families, and groups. The beginner lifts Chiecco and Tzaly are free.
The blue-coded trails are the easy beginner runs and make up about 26% of the skiing in Courmayeur. The best place for beginners is in Checrouit-Val Veny, which has incredible views along long, easy-riding slopes. The Dolonne, is a beginner area close to Courmayeur and a good place for novices to try.
Though most of the slopes are above the tree line, the blue-coded runs are in general on the lower slopes under the tree line and therefore novice skiers will have less difficulty navigating in a whiteout.
The slopes at the peak of the mountain are not on the beginner level, so novices are encouraged to take the lift to the top just to enjoy the beautiful panorama.
The red-coded intermediate trails make up 57% of the skiing, and these trails are generally long and winding providing great long runs perfect for cruising.
The Vallée Blanche will be of interest to the intermediate skiers as this off-pist experience is a 13-mile trail that leads to the town of Chamonix in France. The trip down takes about four to five hours (with time for stopping and eating factored in), and goes through the Mer de Glace (sea of ice). If going with a guide, there are great options for off-pist skiing, including the Toula Glacier.
The black-coded or expert run make up the remaining 17% of runs on the mountain, but the best skiers will not be challenged in Courmayeur. The off-pist options are better for the truly experienced skier, and La Palud has an almost 7,000-foot vertical drop, which starts at Helbronner Point and goes over the Toula Glacier.
By taking the Youla cable car, one can reach the eight-mile Col d’Arp trail that will attract expert skiers as well with its challenging steep descent and pristine snow. The Toula glacier and the Marbre trail are other good runs and there are many natural jumps along the way.
For the competion’s lovers, the resort has the World Cup Downhill and the International slopes. The later is a 4-mile run that has a 3,300 vertical drop. The resort hosts many races every year, but the trails are set up and taken down right after the race. However, there are ski schools that may arrange races that the public can take part in.
Children are most welcome in Courmayeur as the will be all over the country. Driving is not permitted in the town center, so one can feel safe letting one’s child run through the streets.
There are two childcare centers for kids over six months, and there are English-speaking staff members in both places.
The first is the ski school and the second is the Sport Center. The ski school can be found at the bottom of the slopes (but not in the town).
The school takes care of kids up to twelve, and offers lessons in addition to other activities.
There is no possibility to ski at night, but one can ski down the mountain after a dinner at one of the “rifufi” or mountaintop restaurants.
Heli-skiing is an option that more experienced skiers and snowboarders should take advantage of. The service is available from January until May. One can take a variety of different excursions whether on the mountain, through the forest, or on the glacier. Prices vary according to group numbers and the location skied. It is organized with safety in mind, with an avalanche system and an expert local guide.
Amazing off-pist skiing is possible also without taking a helicopter; nice points can be reached with the lift system as well.
If one is interested in cross-country skiing, the terrain and vistas are something to behold in this area. There are more than 20 miles of cross-country skiing trails that are located at the base of Mont Blanc in Val Ferret. The trails follow four different loops that vary not only in distance, but also in the level of difficulty. There are places to eat and to rest, and the price is about $4.
Other trails are available in the Dolone area, which is outside Courmayeur, or in Arvier, Morgex, Saint Niccolas or St. Pierre, which are all a short drive away.
Only for Snowboarding
The board facilities at Courmayeur are extremely lacking. One, can still enjoy the snowboarding here though because there are truly great free riding possibilities available. Boarders can go off-pist like the skiers, or they can try heli-snowboarding.
The best runs off-pist will be the Col d’Arp and the Vallée Blanche. Over the border in France, Chamonix may provide better boarding.
The 1998 Ice Climbing World Cup was held here, so one can imagine that Courmayeur is a great place to try out one’s expertise in this sport. Most of the excursions are located within an hour of town and are suited towards the expert climber one is advised to hire a guide. There are lessons and equipment available.
A guide can take one on a private snow hike through the backcountry. The terrain is generally suited to experienced hikers, though there may be a few opportunities for novices.
As with snow hiking, there are no formal trails for snowshoeing in the area, however, one can hire a guide. As above, there are more opportunities for experts than for novices.
For lovers of Ice Skating and Hockey, the indoor ice rink in Courmayeur can be found in the Centro Sportivo Courmayeur Mont Blanc. One can find local hockey teams playing games here and one may rents the rink for a game well as hockey equipment.
But there are also some other nice activities.
In the nearby of Courmayeur is possible to enjoy Sled Dog through a beautiful landscape or try the crazy Snowbike.
For the golf addicted there is a 5-hole course on the snow golf field.
If you are courageous, don’t miss the opportunity for a hang-gliding or paragliding flight, with an expert instructor, through the Monte Bianco Peaks.
The nearby town of Aosta and the surrounding area is famous for its more than 50 castles dating back to medieval times. Located only about 31 miles away, this town is in the center of the valley. The more famous of the castles in the region are Fenis, Castel Savoia, Verres, and Issogne.
The town of St. Vincent has a casino, that is much more elegant than those in the States. There are other charming mountain towns in the area like La Salle, or Tre-Sain-Dider.
The only other tourist attraction in Courmayeur is the Duke of the Abruzzi’s Alpine Museum.
The Centro Sportivo Courmayeur Mont Blanc has activities such as tennis, squash, a gym, a climbing wall and a sauna.
There are no spas per se in Courmayeur, but some of the finer hotels will have small spa facilities and in the Centro Sportivo Courmayeur Mont Blanc there is a sauna.
Shoppers will be happy in Courmayeur. There are more than thirty shops that have sporting goods, clothes, souvenirs and anything else one could want. Zermatt, Switzerland has duty-free shopping and is just over the border.
The town is know for its activities as night as much if not more than its skiing. The variety of restaurants, bars and pubs, and discos will satisfy everyone. The resort is not expensive and one will find the people ready to please.
Cafes in Italy are the place to go for those with a sweet tooth. Specialties of the area include dolcettas and shortbread cookies with almonds. Don’t be alarmed if the cookies are drier than you are used to; they are meant to be dipped in coffee or wine.
The food is one of the best things about Courmayeur. There are choices for even the most finicky diner. From cafes, to cafeterias to fine dining, one has a plethora of places from which to choose. Specialties of the region are polenta, fontina (a type of cheese) and speck (a cured ham). Definitely don’t leave town without having a wood-oven pizza, or some gelato.
There are over 20 different restaurants located on the mountain’s slopes. One should stop to eat here not only for the great food, but also for the fabulous panorama.
In the town itself, one can find all types of cuisine. There are pizzerias, fine dining establishments, as well as more casual places. Restaurants will serve between 7 and 10 pm, though bars may have limited menus after that, restaurants are usually closed from 3 to 7 pm.
Courmayeur is the place to go to enjoy a hopping nightlife. There are all types of places for the night owl. There are American-style bars and pubs, laidback relaxed lounges, and discos, where you can dance the night away.
Festivals & Events
The New Year is celebrated in Courmayeur on the 30th of December with show in which instructors from the ski school ski down the mountain while holding lit torches.
The Festival of the Ski Instructor is a party that takes place the 1st week of February and has food and drinks and the instructors take part in entertaining races.
Carnivale is in February and Fat Tuesday is celebrated with a carnival of music and food in the street of the town.
The first week in December, Courmayeur host a local film festival, which is known as the Noir. None of the films are in English.
Location and Elevation
One of the most famous skiing resorts in Italy, it is situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, almost under the glacier of the Brenva. Today the longest cable car system in the world has made the peaks and glaciers of Mont Blanc accessible to non-climbers. Since 1965, international tourism has further been increased by the opening of the motorway tunnel which starts at La Palud and connects Italy to France and Switzerland. Despite the enormous growth in tourism over the last few decades, Courmayeur has maintained a pleasantly traditional character.
Resort and lift base: 4,029 feet/1,225 meters
Top of Mountain: 9,127 feet/2,775 meters
Vertical Drop: 5,039 feet/1,532 meters
There could be a problem with altitude sickness due to the fact that Courmayeur is a high altitude resort. In order to avoid this problem it is important to eat and drink water, and be careful not to get too much sun. Also, people who already know they have this problem should make their way to the top very slowly.
The majority of the skiing will take place above the tree line, and whiteouts can be a problem. Beginners should stick to the blue-coded slopes that are all under the tree line.
Snow and Weather
This resort tends to enjoy good levels of snow each winter. The majority of the slopes face towards the northeast and northwest and so does not experience a lot of freezing and thawing, which helps snow conditions. The average snowfall is about 280 inches yearly. Watch for avalanche warnings that will be posted on lifts.
Ski and Snowboard School
The Monte Bianco Scuola di Sci is the only ski school in town. It has more than 100 teachers and offer private and group lessons for all levels in downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, telemark, and snowboarding. It’s very professional and well-known. Instructors usually speak English. Private ski lessons costs about $ 44 for one hour, $ 50 for snowborders and $ 39 for cross country skiing. Group lessons usually last about 3 hours and cost about $176. There are discounts available for children, seniors, families and groups. Children’s lessons take place in the Kindrheim in Dolone area and kids twelve and under can enjoy a myriad of activities here. A 5-day Kindrheim and ski lessons costs around $ 325.
The Societa delle Guide di Coumayeur offers lessons and guides for off-pist skiing and mountaineering such as ice climbing.
There are many shops from which to rent equipment. There is a rental shop on the mountain where one can also store skis overnight. The shops have about the same quality of equipment as well as prices. Long-term rentals will cost less, and there are discounts for children and families.
Be sure to take care of rentals early to avoid standing in line on weekends and on holidays. People will speak English.
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